Tens of thousands of protestors will march in Malaysia on Saturday to demand election reforms.
Prime Minister Najib Razak is expected to call early elections for June, but members of the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections -- known as the Bersih, or 'clean,' movement -- are anticipating that electoral fraud will keep the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition in power, according to Reuters.
Following a massive rally that drew 20,000 people to Kuala Lumpur last July, Najib established an electoral reform committee that passed a number of new measures this month, but activists think that the reforms did not go far enough. Organizers of the latest Bersih rally expect upwards of 50,000 people or more to protest this weekend.
We are expecting at least double the size of last year's crowd to turn up at Dataran Merdeka [Independence Square] on Saturday for the sit-in to demand these reforms regardless of any venue ban, organizing committee member Wong Chin Huat told AFP.
The Malaysian government is trying to stop the rally. On Friday, police sealed off Kuala Lumpur's Independence Square with barbed wire and got a court order to block the rally in the central square. But circling helicopters and possible prison sentences did not stop small groups of Bersih supporters from gathering outside the square on Friday night.
We will march to the barrier. We will not break the barriers or create any situation in the hopes that the government will lift the barrier and allow the sit-in to take place, Bersih 2.0 chairwoman Ambiga Sreenivasan told AFP about the plan for Saturday. She added that she hoped the government would lift the barriers as a sign of good will.
The government has offered alternative venues for the protest, but Bersih organizers have refused, saying that there isn't enough time to organize a new event.
During the July rally, police used tear-gas and water cannons to break up groups of protestors, and arrested 1,600 people, sparking international condemnation.
If (Najib) cracks down he will lose the goodwill he has created over the past four years, Ibrahim Suffian, director of independent pollster Merdeka Centre, told the AFP in advance of Saturday's rally.